C'est nous qui brisons les barreaux des prisons, pour nos frères, La haine à nos trousses, et la faim qui nous pousse, la misère. Il y a des pays où les gens aux creux des lits font des rêves, Ici, nous, vois-tu, nous on marche et nous on tue nous on crève.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

The Failure of International Law

Professor Quiggin asks why charges of war crimes cannot be brought against Bush and friends.

This piece of legislation is one reason.

A few thoughts on gangland wars...

Like just about everybody else who has seen it, (and there are plenty in Victoria), I enjoyed Underbelly. The character of Roberta Williams stole the show, of course. There's nothing more charming than a strong, female character who utters such niceties as 'Suck my toe-jam!'. Many of the backdrops would be familiar to Melbournians, as would many of the characters and events which, among certain crowds, and in certain neighbourhoods, became the stuff of minor myth.

I has some minor quibbles - some of the characters were brilliantly cast, but occasionally I detected a misfire, particularly as regards the police. The lack of 'gentrification' of some of the criminal characters was good to see. Predictably, almost every murder was preceded by scenes of the soon-to-be-victim farewelling loved ones. The Victorian police were portrayed rather fawningly, with scant mention of the entrenched police corruption that allowed the underworld to function in the first place. Yes, there was a single, moustache-wearing villainous cop, but he was promptly caught in order to showcase the virtue of the others. In fairness, I can think of few precedents in Australian drama where police have been portrayed realistically.

Whilst the local detail is no doubt interesting to Victorians, the show has found popularity Australia-wide. This is not entirely surprising, given the success of the gangster genre. Like the most successful gangster flicks, Underbelly combined depictions of the criminal underworld with psychological explorations (extremely brief, in this case, but to be expected) and family scenes. This is a tried-and -true formula in this genre: consider the fact that The Godfather begins with a wedding, The Godfather II begins with a first communion, and Goodfellas focuses at length on the downward spiral of Liotta and Bracco's marriage.

There is thus a sense of universality depicted, even among these extreme characters. Perhaps, in the po-mo era, the brutal violence of the gangster genre is the closest thing we have to tragedy.

Two powerful (and sometimes, controversial) means of analysing some of these universalities in drama and literature come in the form of what can be broadly termed psychoanalytic and Marxist criticism.

Psychoanalytic themes are in abundance in Underbelly. We see characters with ever-shifting allegiances and identifications, we see primal fathers and Oedipal sons, the swapping of women, and the desperate, narcissistic need to confirm to a violent ideal ego, spurred on by an equally violent superego. Nonetheless, in this post, I'll restrict my comments to a few of the political themes of Underbelly.

All of the characters form part of what Marx termed the Lumpenproletariat, a class that is both excluded, and reactionary. The essence of Melbourne's infamous gangland wars, as depicted here, revolves around a dispute between two factions within the criminal wing of this class. One is an impoverished but 'up-and-coming' class, led by the character of Carl Williams, and ably revealed in the crass, vengeful consumerism of his Lady Macbeth, Roberta. The other faction consists of wealthy 'establishment' criminal criminals, the irony being that these characters were themselves once the impoverished sons of (mostly) Italian and Irish immigrants, with origins in the notorious Painters and Dockers Union. The complacency of this latter group, who live in gentrified neighbourhoods, drive expensive cars, and send their children to private schools, eventually explodes into violence when their supremacy is challenged by the up-and-comers.

In the actions of Williams and his crew, we see in microcosm what we have witnessed on the world stage for many years. The twin pillars of capitalism and imperialism are seen in Underbelly in miniature, and Williams and his proxies kill to maintain strategic supremacy, their control of trade, and, rather like the US, their 'prestige'.

Toward the end of the series, we see Williams' disingenuous attempts to exonerate his role in the gangland wars. When we see him tell a media scrum that he an innocent, a 'business man', merely defending the interests of his family, we hear an echo of Bush's justifications for the ongoing war on terror, and for pre-emptive strikes. When Williams callously dismisses the trauma of the children witnessing a murder he has commissioned against their fathers ('They'll get over it'), we are reminded of Rumsfeld's famous bon mot regarding Iraq ('Stuff happens').

After all, all capitalism is, at bottom, 'gangster capitalism'. A shadow market ruled by underworld figures is not an anomaly within a consumer capitalist society, but its logical extension. A worker, a sole individual, can never 'take on' an industry or state in the manner in which these entities can do to the former. And, in the last resort, these entities have force at their disposal, in order to prosecute laws and industrial edicts. (Flouting unfair laws has, however, brought at least one recent success). We need only see how entrenched, and how easily accommodated gangsterism is in some societies (such as Southern Italy, for one) to see how coextensive are the two worlds of legitimate and illegitimate business.

When we see this imperialism played out in dramas on the screen, we recognise it as crime. When we see it unfold on the daily news, we dignify it with the name of 'war', or, even more euphemistically, as 'peace-keeping' or 'nation-building'. It is as if relieving a long-suffering gangster's moll of her husband, by way of a few bullet wounds is a 'humanitarian liberation'. After all, our leaders are just good businessmen, protecting the interests of their (elite) families.

The Politics of Imbecility in Blogging

I thought this would be a good time to lay to rest the ongoing dispute between myself and Hall, at least on this blog. No doubt a veteran cyber-stalker like himself will continue his vendetta, but I don't intend to waste any space on my blog on low-lifes like him.

As a final laugh, I thought it would be amusing to take a brief look at his attempt at a kind of 'not guilty' plea, with respect to his own actions. It can be found on his blog of shame here. Rather than issue a mea culpa for his most recent acts of stalking, as well as his newest attack blogs, Hall continues to drive his Noddy Car down the road of no return.

Hall points out that there are many different bloggers in the world - 'All are to be found when you brose the blogs that are out there'. He tries to persuade us that, for ethical reasons, those who blog under their own name have more 'gravitas' than those who use a pseudonym:

Put simply If an author is willing to affix their name to their opinion they have to be honest and truthful because there are penalties if they are not.

Hall omits any mention of the fact that, being unemployed (and possibly unemployable), there are precisely no consequences for him to be hosting the most virulent bigots on his site, or using his time stalking other bloggers. This is not the case for those with employers. Hall himself knows that vulnerable position that working bloggers face, which is precisely why he has tried (or threatened) to contact the employers of at least three bloggers with whom he disagrees.

Hall then drivels on for a bit about the evils of anonymous bloggers with different political beliefs to his own. Disagreement, and legitimate mockery are rebaptised as 'character assassination' in Hall's deluded dramaturgy. So what's a deranged blogger with wounded pride to do?

A blogger, who writes in their own name, who has been the subject of such behaviour, has no real recourse unless they can discover the identity of their attackers.

A blogger could always respond to the mockery with counter-mockery, or construct decent sentences (and better yet, arguments) in retaliation. Since, for Hall, these are not options, stalking and 'outing' is the only 'real recourse'.

Hall complains that slander and libel laws are not enforced on the blogosphere, but is unable to cite a single instance of where these laws might ever have applied to him. Different political opinions, and spirited criticism are not, after all, illegal. Hall continues to attempt to justify his profound contempt for others' privacy and, by extension, free speech:

Write about politics, religion or current events and you have to be just as ruthless as the anonymous attackers that will inevitably take you on and you have to find a currency that they will respect.

In Hallworld, this currency involves bribing individuals for information that may lead to the 'outing' of an enemy blogger. How very ethical of our respected conservative. He continues:

Once their name is known they will have to carry the chains that they have forged and those chains will clank about their person forever. Then again there are individuals who genuinely realise the error of their ways and take a real shot at redemption I for one am happy to forgive those that admit their error and apologise to those that they have wronged.

Hall himself has never once apologised for his own 'errors', and they are many, and great. These include 'outing' a blogger in 2006 who had made no personal attacks against him. This 'outing' extended to Hall spamming random blogs with his perceived enemy's details. By his own standards, redemption is a long, long distance away for Hall.

Rather helpfully, Hall has compiled a list of rules that he thinks all bloggers should follow, pseudonymous or not:

1. Always write about others as if you were known to them, even if you are using a pseudonym .

For Hall, this includes telling another blogger that he should have a 'hot shot' (i.e. overdose on heroin).

2. Be generous to those you debate with in blogs and respect the blog owner as if you are a guest in their home.

This includes telling a blogger with depression that he is just a 'sad lefty', at his own site, no less.

3. Always remember that the persons you are talking to are real people even if they have the most bizarre pseudonyms they can be offended and hurt by things that are said about them, just as much as you can be hurt.

Hall has created fake blogs under his enemies' pseudonyms, and tried to smear them with such charming labels as 'stinking pieces of shit' and 'lesbian nazis'. Then there is this piece of brilliance:

If you do have a dispute with a fellow blogger, in the first instance try to settle your differences privately via email (if they have one available) because once your dispute is being played out in public all sorts of malicious non-entities will try to butt into the argument often making a settlement all but impossible. But if that fails, be happy to walk away. There are millions of bloggers out there and you can’t expect a warm reception from all of them.

This is possibly the funniest thing Hall has ever written, and this from a man who once said that 'This is a woeful idea , mainly because UHT milk always tastes so bad. Not it is impossible to drink this stuff bad, but burnt and very processed bad'.

Firstly, Hall has spammed various left-leaning bloggers with unsolicited emails, and has invariably published any responses on one of his 78 blogs.

Secondly, Hall is yet to walk away from a single major dispute. He still writes regularly about people he agreed to leave alone, and who have long-since forgotten his demented blog of shame.

Clearly, Hall knows what the 'right thing' is when it comes to internet etiquette. It is just as evident that Hall himself refuses to abide by this etiquette, as he continues to be the saddest, creepiest and most deluded blogger in Australia. Hoisted by his own petard, Hall is, by his own criteria, the most contemptible of hypocrites. Not that this is news to anyone sufficiently unfortunate to have read his semi-literate drivel.

In the spirit of bloggerly goodwill, however, I am very happy to recommend Hall to a suitable psychiatric service in his area and cease to mock him again, upon production of an apology, a withdrawal of his hate-blogs, and verification of his bona fides. He lives to stalk, so I'm not holding my breath.

UPDATE: I don't know who wrote this, but here is another view on the matter. Oh where oh where is Mr Bourbon?

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Why Wingnuts and Philosophy Don't Mix...

I know I should resist the temptation to see how the other half lives (or mouth-breathes, as it were). But some habits are hard to break, and I've relapsed from time to time.

I tried, at least, not to make these relapses public. To that end, I resisted the urge to ridicule this 'world government' conspiracy theory, of the sort embraced by anti-Semitic bigots and cranks:

The same crowd also believe that 'reptilian bloodlines' rule the world. I figured that the authors of this stuff couldn't possibly believe in all of it.

My resolve was then sorely tested when I saw this post claiming that intellectuals were more or less part of a treasonous alliance between Marxism and Islam. It's nutty, and the author doesn't forward a shred of evidence to support his ridiculous claims, but it's not vastly different to the drivel peddled by more skilled propagandists.

I even bit my tongue when I saw this shameless attempt to besmirch an apparent detractor of Winston Churchill, a great hero to some conservatives. Naturally, the post doesn't deal with some of the many factual criticisms that one might extend to Churchill. This is the same Churchill, Nobel Laureate, who gave us such pearls of wisdom as:

“I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes. The moral effect should be good… and it would spread a lively terror…”


"I do not admit... that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia... by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race... has come in and taken its place."

Unsurprisingly, he championed Zionism, as opposed to 'the schemes of the International Jews' (i.e. Bolshevism). He was not altogether unsympathetic to fascism, either. To quote a comrade blogger, who supplied the above references:

Benito Mussolini had "rendered a service to the whole world", showing "a way to combat subversive forces". Even Hitler received some Churchillian approbation: "One may dislike Hitler's system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as admirable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations."

All this I passed by, politely as it were, thinking it unworthy to bring facts to bear against deranged wingnuts. Being stupid, ignorant, or plain delusional is not a moral flaw, however irritating (or unintentionally hilarious) the consequences.

Dishonesty, on the other hand, is a different matter, so I simply couldn't resist this woefully inaccurate, and thoroughly mendacious attack on the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (whose name, incidentally, is misspelled for most of the post).

The author claims that Nietzsche was 'Hitler's hero'. Whilst Hitler read and admired Nietzsche (Nietzsche's sister had edited a posthumous volume of his writings, removing references that condemned Germany's rising anti-Semitism) Hitler had plenty of 'heroes'. Among them were Schopenhauer, for instance, and plenty of other perfectly respectable and bourgeois figures within the West's literary, musical and artistic canon.

Hitler's 'philosophy', if it could even be called as much, does not resemble Nietzsche's in any significant respect. There are innumerable passages in Nietzsche's work that condemn 'mob rule', that condemn German (and other) nationalism, that oppose anti-Semitism, and that attack politics of all stripes: conservative, liberal, and radical. It is perfectly clear that our wingnut author here hasn't read a page of Nietzsche, still less understood any of his philosophy, when she blathers:

The views of Hitler, and his idol, Neitzsche, could be seen as a revealing forerunner for today’s globalizing, centralizing European government as a whole. Neitzsche espoused some views which could come straight out of any Rhodes school or Common Purpose training camp.

Actually, 'globalisation' is the fruit of neoliberal capitalism, and it's difficult to see Nietzsche rallying to its cause. Anybody with even a passing familiarity with Nietzsche's views would know he wouldn't waste his spittle on a 'Rhodes school' or 'Common Purpose training camp'.

So why do we see this wilfully dishonest attempt to smear mad Freddy, rather than to come to terms with his philosophy? So that the author can reach this equally disingenuous conclusion about Hitler:

Adolf was, in actuality, an internationalist and a globalist.

Really? Nothing about Hitler's invasion of other European nations, or persecution of Jews, Gypsies, and communists demonstrated an 'internationalist' perspective. The author concludes:

Neitzsche has been the darling of the Left for decades now. In the current age of globalism and internationalism, is there going to be a surge in Nazism whether overt or tacit? I would say, the surge has already started.

Nietzsche has been the 'darling' of a lot of people, from all sides of politics, and with no discernible political views at all. In many respects (and I am not a technical philosopher), I would have thought Nietzsche's influence was starting to wane. The Nietzschean impetus behind 'deconstruction' (Derrida) or the unravelling of power and discourse (Foucault) is decades-old now, and many of the more prominent Continental philosophers are not Nietzschean in the least. So when our good author warns us of a 'surge', once can only assume she is referring to a growth is crude propaganda, wilful ignorance, and deliberate and blatant lying.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

A poster I once saw...

Politics, propaganda and posters have a long history of being bedfellows. See here for a Soviet example. Other countries have their own examples - maybe somebody out there has some old Australian wartime posters.
In any case, fellow blogger Toaf posted about anti-Beijing posters, of the sort that may be useful for a protest. This is one that I snapped on my travels a couple of years ago:

Monday, 21 April 2008

The Lukewarm Contented Revolutionary

Due to incessant personal attacks, I may have to give blogging away.

In the meantime, however, I thought I'd share some revolutionary recipes! There are some things rural QLD just doesn't have. Taste is one such thing.

This recipe is ubiquitous throughout Southern Italy. Southern Italians rarely eat out, but when they do, it's pretty good. They'll tend to have multiple courses, and if you're in Sicily, Calabria, or Naples, in particular, you can bet that this will be one of the courses. It involves mussels, which I know many of you are scared of, but they cost only $5 a kilo (at the Queen Vic market), are tasty, and dead easy to cook.

Zuppa di Cozze

You need:

200g ripe tomatoes
1 kg black mussels
Olive oil
40g Butter
I leek, finely chopped (white part only!)
3 cloves garlic (crushed)
Flat-leafed parsley
1 Small fresh chili, finely chopped
2/3 cup dry white wine (cask wine will suffice)

1. Score a cross in the base of each tomato. Place in a bowl, and cover with boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain, and peel away from the cross. Cut tomatoes in half, remove seeds (if possible - they won't kill you, but purists insist on removing them) and finely chop.

2. Scrub the mussels with a scrubbing brush or old toothbrush. Remove the hairy bits - these will be pretty obvious. Discard broken mussels.

3. Heat a little oil and the butter in a large saucepan, and cook leek and garlic over low heat until the leek is soft and not brown. (If unused to leek - it's like a real fancy, damn sexy onion, so use onion as a guide). Add saffron and parsley and chili, and cook whilst stirring for 1-2 minutes. Increase the heat and add the wine. Bring to the boil and cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the chopped tomato and 1 cup of water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

4. Add the mussels to the pot and cook, covered, until open. After 4-5 minutes, discard any unopened mussels. If the soup is too crowded with shells, remove about one third of the remaining mussels, and take the mussel meat from the shell and place it back in the pot. Season to tase with salt and pepper, and consider some crusty bread.

This is a very easy to prepare meal, and is reasonably healthy. It has almost no carbs, so the Atkinsonians shouldn't complain. Buon apetito!

Friday, 18 April 2008

Free Markets and Families - A Look at Anne Manne

In the latest edition of the Quarterly Essay, Anne Manne has written a provocative piece entitled 'Love & Money'. When the latest polling from around the world informs us the unpopularity of free market solutions to social problems, Manne argues that the invisible hand is failing us when it comes to raising children.

In a nutshell, Manne's thesis is as follows. Australia's population, like that of many other developed nations, is rapidly aging. To the extent that the aged require various kinds of support, it is essential that Australia's women produce offspring, to both provide this support, and to contribute indirectly by way of income tax.

In contrast to this, however, politicians of various stripes, both in Australia and elsewhere, have argued that it is essential for women to be part of the workforce as much as possible, and the value and productivity of women has tended to be linked to their employment, and consumption and spending power, rather than for motherhood.

Manne argues that policy-makers have attempted to reconcile this contradiction by way of a largely market-based solution: child-care. Yet the forms of child-care that have tended to prosper have been cheap and corporate, and Manne cites some reasonable evidence to suggest that their use is not necessarily in a child's best interests. In other countries, particularly in Northern Europe, the solution to this problem has been to amplify welfare state measures, such as providing relatively generous packages of maternal (and even paternal) leave. When given the option, Manne argues that parents would rather stay at home than be forced to participate in the workforce, and place children in care.

The net effect of this, according to Manne, is that motherhood has been devalued, in some cases quite explicitly. Fertility rates are too low, and financial pressures are compelling women to either delay or forgo motherhood. It should be noted that Manne is strictly not attempting to villify those parents who place children in child-care. Nonetheless, maternal love has been reduced to a salable commodity, namely, 'care'. But, as Manne puts it:

Commercialising care cannot always ensure loving attentiveness, which is embedded in particularity and a shared history. Turning care over to the market - commodifying it - has inherent problems. To begin with, all the assumptions about the well-informed purchaser who can withdraw patronage from inadequate services fall down in the case of caregiving services. If people don't thrive in care, it can be difficult to find an alternative. Care services may be in such short supply, or so expensive, that the purchaser settles out of panic on the first, rather poor option they can find. Since services are always labour-intensive, any attempt to lift the quality of care raises the cost. (p. 65).

In short, Manne argues that there exists a 'shadow economy' consisting of (mostly female) carers tending to the needs of the aged, sick, children, and disabled, whose labour is necessary in order for the productive consumers to work extended hours in paid employment. Whilst John Howard told Australians that, economically speaking, they have never had it better, the fact remains that Australians work longer hours than ever, and are up to their eyeballs in debt. Manne concludes with a range of recommendations to address these issues, mainly involving increased Government support for parents who wish to stay at home.

I largely agree with Manne's sentiments, with one major quibble. In an otherwise excellent essay in The Monthly, Manne discussed the pornification of our culture but again, as with 'Love & Money', she situated this phenomenon largely within the context of feminism having taken a wrong turn somewhere along the line. Whilst it is perfectly true that there are feminist apologists for 'raunch culture', as well as feminists who attack motherhood, it is surely more pertinent to point out that capitalism has very successfully co-opted various elements of feminism. When the likes of Peter Costello, or, indeed, Tony Blair, have exhorted women to return to the workplace, it is most definitely not in the name of feminism that they speak. Again, when manufacturers market g-strings for tweens, it is in the service of capitalism, not feminism.

This is one of the chief contradictions of much of today's conservatism in Australia - whilst phenomena such as the devaluing of motherhood, and the rise of raunch culture are deplored, and whilst feminism is scapegoated for this, conservatives fail to see how the pervasive influence of neo-liberal policy has contributed to the situation. Whilst the neo-liberals attempt, with some success, to dismantle Australia's welfare state, it is the role of leftists to continually point out these contradictions, to challenge such a dismantling, and to highlight the the growing evidence that demonstrates that it is unfettered capitalism and 'market solutions' that are chiefly responsible for a range of social problems, and not, as in this case, some feminists on the fringe of public discourse.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

I don't know much about art...

But I know what I like:

Image courtesy of this guy.

Non molto bene...

Sadly, Silvio Berlusconi is set to once again become PM of Italy, with what is called his 'centre-right coalition' coming first in the recent election. For those who don't know, Berlusconi is the country's wealthiest man, and he controls much of the nation's media.

Part of Berlusconi's coalition consisted of the Northern League and the People of Freedom, some of whose members openly declare their fascist leanings. (See, fascism belongs to the right after all). Whilst trade unionism and, indeed, communism remain potent political forces in Italy, Berlusconi continues to denigrate left-leaning voters. Recently, Francesco Totti (nemesis of the Socceroos), who has supported a left-leaning mayor in Rome was derided as 'not all there'.

In that vein, and in sympathy with Italians everywhere, here are some Berlusconi pearlers (taken from here):

At a rally during the 2006 election campaign:

"Read The Black Book of Communism and you will discover that in the China of Mao, they did not eat children, but had them boiled to fertilise the fields."

To German MEP Martin Schulz, at start of Italy's EU presidency in July 2003:

"I know that in Italy there is a man producing a film on Nazi concentration camps - I shall put you forward for the role of Kapo (guard chosen from among the prisoners) - you would be perfect."

On Mussolini:

"Mussolini never killed anyone. Mussolini used to send people on vacation in internal exile."

On his alleged conflict of interest as prime minister and one of Italy's biggest tycoons, with major media holdings:

"If I, taking care of everyone's interests, also take care of my own, you can't talk about a conflict of interest."

On a proposal to base an EU food standards agency in Finland, rather than the Italian city of Parma:

"Parma is synonymous with good cuisine. The Finns don't even know what prosciutto is. I cannot accept this."

On himself:

"The best political leader in Europe and in the world."

"There is no-one on the world stage who can compete with me."

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Legal threats to comrade @ndy.

Following the lead of Machine.gun.keyboard, we at The Partisan are hosting a post by @ndy of Slackbastard fame. @ndy is an anarchist who has done much excellent work in exposing the nascent fascist/neo-Nazis of Australia and NZ.

@ndy writes:

As a result of technical issues, slackbastard @ anarchobase is moving… In brief, my previous blog was subjected to legal threats by the ‘anonymous’ owners of mathaba.net, who viewed the contents of the post below as being in some way ‘defamatory’. More details later. By the way, my email isn’t working, my computer is a piece of shit, and I’m a Luddite. In the meantime:

Having read a recent missive from “Media Alert Transmission Hub Advanced Broadcast Application” (MATHABA)* on the subject of its having documented a revisionist conference in Sydney on the subject of 9/11;

Having bugger-all response to a previous post [temporarily unavailable] on this issue; having a few hours to kill, maim and torture; I thought I might as well scribble a little more on local neo-Nazi Welf Herfurth’s media outlet of choice: mathaba.net.

To begin with, mathaba.net founder Adam (Musa) King apparently used to be known as Louis Istvan Szondy, having changed his name in 1990. In terms of the political perspective which he brings to mathaba.net — and which might explain why fascists such as Welf Herfurth and other anti-Semites are included among its few dozen correspondents — in 2003 King (Szondy) won a libel case against The Sunday Telegraph, which accused him of being a terrorist and accomplice of al-Qaeda. An extract from the text of a subsequent failed appeal (May 18, 2004) by the Telegraph (against some parts of the decision in favour of Szondy) provides the context for these libellous allegations:

It appears that the defendants’ [that is, the Telegraph’s] interest in the claimant [that is, King/Szondy] was aroused when the police visited their offices on Friday 19th October 2001 (shortly after the destruction by terrorists of the World Trade Centre in New York) and accidentally left there a list of the names of 24 people into whom the Anti-Terrorist Branch was conducting an official investigation. Most of the names on the list were obviously Islamic, but the list contained the name of “Adam Moussa” and at least one other person with an English sounding name. On the following Sunday, 21st October, the defendants published in the Sunday Telegraph the first of the two articles of which complaint is made in this action. It was headed “Two white suspects in Bin Laden probe” and it read as follows: “Detectives are investigating two white people in Britain who they suspect of aiding Osama bin Laden’s terror network. Secret Scotland Yard documents, obtained by The Sunday Telegraph, name two men – one of whom is understood to be a computer expert – as assisting al-Qaeda’s network in this country. It is the first time since September 11 that white non-Muslims have been accused of involvement in Islamic extremism. The documents reveal that a special unit has been established at the Yard to carry out ‘Operation Full Circle’, to monitor the two white men and 22 other suspects. All are being investigated to establish whether they have committed terrorist offences. The Sunday Telegraph cannot name the two for legal and operational reasons. One of the two white men on the list, the computer expert, is believed to have assisted bin Laden operatives with website activities. He is named in the document as also being linked to Francis Etim, who has been charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Etim, who lived in Greenwich, south-east London, was born in Britain and converted to Islam at marriage and changed his name to Sulayman Zain-Ul-Abidin. Also on the list is a white man with a French name. Little is known of him, except that he has adopted several aliases. He is believed to be wanted in connection with Algerian plots to attack France.”

(For further discussion of the legal and political ramifications of the King case, see Jessica Hodgson, ‘Newpapers falling prey to legal eagles’, The Observer, September 28, 2003.) Prior to mathaba.net, Szondy was also responsible for establishing the International Green Charter. In other words, Szondy was once an advocate on behalf of the ideas contained in “Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution” / “Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Arab Libyan Popular and Socialist Jamahirya” Muammar al-Gaddafi’s 1975 magnum opus the three-volume Green Book. In fact, Szondy remains a fan; as recently as June 2007, he describes the contents of the Book as constituting “the scientific and natural historical principles of the Third Universal Theory, the truth” (’Founder of Green Charter International CallsCell-Phone-Services-for-Travelers Mar-4-2008 For Serious Study of The Green Book’, mathaba.net, June 2007). But what exactly is the International Green Charter?

Inspired by the Proclamation of the Great Green Charter for Human Rights on 12th June, 1988, the first Human Rights Charter to be issued by the people gathered in popular congresses, signalling the end of the era of the republics and the dawn of the era of themasses, as well as a new advancement in the definition of human rights; Motivated by the Green Book, a guide for the total deliverance from the power of individuals, classes, clans, tribes or parties, and the path towards the establishment of a civil society where all human beings are free and equal in the exercise of power and in the possession of wealth and arms; Convinced that the rights of Man, vicegerent of God on earth, cannot be the gift of a person nor exist in societies where exploitation and tyranny are practised, and can only be achieved by the victory of the people over their oppressors and the disappearance of regimes which annihilate freedom;

Et cetera et cetera et cetera.

al-Gaddafi, incidentally, is awesome. In addition to being Libya’s head of state and an inspiration to Szondy, Muammar has a bodyguardcomposed entirely of chicks. They wear blue uniforms, have black belts in karate, and were most recently seen in France when al-G popped in to visit fellow Brotherly Leader Monsieur Sarkozy (Ian Sparks, ‘Five planes, a camel, a tent and 30 female virgin bodyguards… Libyan leader Gaddafi arrives in Paris with his entourage’, The Daily Mail, December 11, 2007).
On a spotterly note, during the 1980s the Libyan Gub’mint sponsored visits to Libya by members of the Trotskyist SWP (now known as the DSP) under the auspices of a local neo-Nazi turned Islamic convert named Robert Pash (see Raiders of the Left Ark, January 13, 2006). According to Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke (Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity, NYU Press, 2002, p.292) in the late 1970s Pash was the Australian contact for the US-based Aryan Nations, and also distroed KKK propaganda. In the ’80s, Pash distroed al-Gaddafi’s Green Book, and later helped establish the Australian People’s Congress, an organisation which I first encountered via newspaper advertisements around the time of the first Gulf War. At one point in 1987, according to The Australia/Israel Review (April 10–May 1, 1998):

…then Hawke Minister Clyde Holding revealed to Parliament that Pash’s outfit advocated the “biological integrity of the white race through a complete geographic and political separation of the races and thus the maintenance of international white unity”. Holding told Parliament that Pash was an “anti-Semitic right wing racist political loony in the tradition of Goebbels and Hitler,” and then tabled
Queensland Police reports which showed that Mr Pash had been under investigation following death threats to Queensland’s Jewish community by the organisation, The Sword of Islam, for which of course Mr Pash was the spokesman.

Curiously, in April 1987, Libya hosted the second conference of its World Center Against Imperialism, Zionism and Racism (MATABA), in Tripoli. Pash led an Australian delegation which included, notoriously, Aboriginal activists Michael Mansell (‘Desperate Times’, ABC Message Stick, May 14, 2004) and Yaluritja Clarrie Isaacs. In the ’90s, Pash popped up as the “Australian Association for the Study of the Juche Idea”; this being another term for the state ideology of North Korea / Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). It was in this capacity that in 1998 ‘Rashid Robert Pash’ was given the opportunity to tour the country of the illustrious Korean President Kim Il Sung and the Great Leader Comrade Kim Jong Il. As for mathaba.net, as a result of his recent reconciliation with the Jewish-dominated Western powers — the UK and the US in particular, but including, of course, France’s Sarkozy — al-Gaddafi has broken poor little Szondy’s heart. This is why al-Gaddafi is regularly criticised by mathaba.net, while the contents of his little Green Book — and its strange amalgam of pan-Arabism, Islam and state socialism — remains an attractive property for the likes of Louis. And, of course, Herfurth & Co.. For further discussion on ‘Third Positionism’, see Chip Berlet, Racial Nationalism, the Third Position and Ethnoviolence (Including a Discussion of Possible Connections Between Militant Islamic Fundamentalists and the U.S. Extreme Right); on the Green Book and its diminishing funding and influence, see teh Interwebs, especially Craig S. Smith, ‘In Libya, pages fade in once-touted Green Book’, International Herald Tribune, January 5, 2005, which documents the manner in which the Gaddafi regime no longer plows dinars into promoting The Leader’s vision, and why folks like Pash turned to Juche thought for (financial) sustenance (”Tucked away in a whitewashed, Italian-colonial building set in a quiet compound on the edge of Tripoli, the largely forgotten World Center for Green Book Studies is looking for a little respect…”); The Washington Post has just published (March 29, 2008) an editorial, ‘Not Quite Free’, on Gaddafi, Libya and its relations with Western powers which is worth reading (”The turning point came in 2003, when Mr. Gaddafi renounced terrorism and agreed to dismantle his nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs. At the time, many attributed Mr. Gaddafi’s shift to his fear of meeting the same fate as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. It also reflected his desire to lure U.S. and other Western companies to redevelop Libya’s vast oil reserves.”). And on a final spotterly note, sometime anarchist and boy lover Hakim Bey (aka Peter Lamborn Wilson) recounts his experience addressing a conference in Libya on the subject of the Green Book in ‘Jihad Revisited’, June 5, 2004: “The conference in Tripoli turned out to be a curious circus of “lost causes,” including two anarchists from New York (we were cheered as heroes for defying the “travel ban”), countless African liberation fronts, the interesting French “New Right” philospher Alain de Benoist and some Australian Red/Brown types, two charming Turkish Greens, a Slovenian anarchist, a clique of Parisian Maoists, etc., and a phalanx of hospitable Libyans, all fuelled by excessive coffee intake. A German doctor gave a paper on depleted uranium in Iraq, the first time most of us had heard of such a thing. A New Zealand delegate told horror stories about privatization of water; ditto…”

*Al Mathaba Al-AlamiaAl Mathaba (meaning center) is the Libyan center for anti-imperialist propaganda which has funded third world guerilla groups. The Anti-Imperialism Center (AIC) - also known as Mathaba - is used by Gaddafi to support terrorist networks and thus plays an important role in Gaddafi’s terrorism strategy.Al-Mathaba was established in 1982 to support “liberation and revolutionary groups”, Al-Mathaba has sponsored a number of stridently anti-Western conferences in Tripoli. At the same time, its mission is to identify and recruit revolutionaries for ideological and military training in Libya. During their training in Libyans camps, individuals are selected for advanced training, including in weapons and explosives, and indoctrination. With representatives in many Libyan embassies worldwide, Al-Mathaba runs its own independent clandestine operations and disburses payments to terrorist, insurgent, and subversive groups.As of 1992 Al-Mathaba was headed by Musa Kusa, a Gaddafi confidant who was also Libya’s Deputy Foreign Minister. As of late 1995 Musa Kusa was the head of the Libyan External Security Agency, and was also the head of Al Mathaba International. Al Mathaba is more a concept than an organization. Its origins are Libyan and its objective anti-imperialist. Libya’s international activity is considerable. Some see it everywhere, behind every armed, or even radical, group. It was in 1982 that Libya took the initiative of organizing an international organization essentially based on the third world: Al Mathaba. By calling the 3rd Al Mathaba Congress in August 2000, to mark the 30th anniversary of its revolution, with the participation of many representatives, particularly from Africa and Latin America, Libya no doubt hoped to affirm for itself an active international role, far beyond its small size. Judging by the level of participation, its plan was particularly well received, reflecting the high degree of sympathy Libya enjoys in the anti-imperialist world — the result of the continuity of its efforts over a period of time. Once an organization that backed morally, financially and physically the liberation movements seeking to overthrow oppressive regimes — often times through armed struggle — Col. Gaddafi said that “after restructuring, (Mathaba) must confront the concept of globalization.” Many heads of state were present: Sam Nujoma (Namibia), Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Yoweri Kaguta Musaveni (Uganda), Blaise Campraore (Burkina Faso), Alpha Oumar Konare (Mali), Yahya Jammeh (Gambia), Idris Deby (Chad), Abdou Diouf (Senegal), and the President of Guinea Bissao. Progressive political forces, communists and revolutionaries were there as well: the Cuban CP, Shaffik Handal (FMLN, San Salvador), the Guatemalan URNG, Tomas Borge and Daniel Ortega of the FSLN (Nicaragua), Raul Reyes (FARC, Columbia), a personal representative of Hugo Chavezfla-bank-meeting-to-focus-on-biofuels Apr-3-2008 (Venezuela), Lula, of the Brazilian Labour Party, Gladys Marin, General Secretary of the Chilean CP, Marina Arismendi, General Secretary of the Uruguayan CP. From Europe there was a very varied Italian delegation, with the Refoundation Communist Party in particular, and a Spanish delegation from the United Left (José Cabo) and from OSPAAAL. ~ Al Mathaba / Anti-Imperialism Center

Legal threats are familiar to many of us bloggers. A certain ;;; comes to mind...

Monday, 7 April 2008

Crikey on Class

Online mag Crikey has had a couple of interesting articles recently, both of which are worth bookmarking for future reference.

The first is by Jeff Sparrow, editor of the Overland journal, who argues that US forces are colluding with Shi'ite elites against the nationalist Iraqi resistance, composed largely of the underclass:

According to George Bush, "Iraqi security forces are waging a tough battle against militia fighters and criminals in Basra, many of whom have received arms and training and funding from Iran." But hang on a minute. In that "tough battle", isn’t the US providing air support for an organization called the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq? Wasn’t the SCIRI (more recently known as the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq) founded 25 years ago as an Iranian proxy? Didn’t, until May last year, the SCIRI/ICI explicitly take its spiritual direction from Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei?

I've seen this theme elsewhere of some of the left-leaning blogosphere, and I'd be interested to hear from anybody who knows more. Anybody who still believes that the Iraq War was an emancipatory project should be disabused of their illusions upon learning that private security firm Blackwater has had its contract in Iraq renewed, in spite of allegations of civilian massacres, and in spite of the wishes of the Iraqi people.

Closer to home, Crikey has published an article examining the disparities in wealth between Australians, and puts paid to the Howardian myth of unparalleled economic prosperity:

St. Vincent de Paul assisted over 2.1 million Australians in 2006. An estimated 100,000 Australians are currently homeless. The percentage of the population living in poverty increased in 10 years (1994 to 2004) from 7.6% to 9.9%. Australia ranks unfavourably against most OECD nations on poverty.

It's good to see such issues receive a bit of attention, when the rest of the media is focusing on Wayne Carey's foibles, and newsreaders coming out of the closet. Traditional leftist considerations of class, and the analysis of struggles between classes are still essential is a supposedly post-Marxist, postmodern world.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Action and Reaction/ Reality and Perception

I have little interest in engaging in the pseudo-debate over Dutch filmmaker Geert Wilder's Fitna. As far as I can see, it is the cinematic equivalent of street graffito saying 'Go home, Lebs'.

Nonetheless, certain sections of the media and blogosphere were falling over themselves in Australia and the US in their rush to tell us how necessary this film was to disabuse us of our illusions about Islam. Apparently, Islam is not a secret mission (arm-in-arm with the 'politically correct' crowd, you see) to take over the world, beginning with Europe. As Melbourne's resident cherry-picker, Andrew Bolt put it:

If Geert Wilders was very wrong about Islam, his film would not cause such panic...If Wilders is so wrong, people wouldn’t be so terrified as to try to ban his film, which does virtually nothing but quote the Koran and Muslim leaders, and show without comment the work of some Muslim groups. (source)

It is therefore heartening to see an article in the Israeli press that elaborates on this supposed panic, and the nature of the Islamic menace in Holland:

Dutch Jews are more outspoken than local Muslims in their criticism of the newly released anti-Islam film by rightist legislator Geert Wilders, says Dr. Ronny Naftaniel, head of the pro-Zionist Center for Information and Documentation (CIDI).

"They [the Muslim community] are afraid. They have been told by the Dutch government to keep quiet and be wise about this issue, and that's what they want to do," Naftaniel told Haaretz on Monday in CIDI's four-story headquarters near the American embassy.

"I was surprised by the silence of the local Muslim leaders," Naftaniel added. "If I were a Muslim, I would speak out and I would blame Wilders for this film. I wouldn't stop shouting about it. I don't understand their silence, I really don't. I think they are scared."

"We are never afraid to speak out in the harshest of terms against what we think is wrong, be it against Muslim extremism here in the Netherlands, or the Dutch or Israeli governments," he said. "But this movie portrays all Muslims as The Enemy. And this is just not true."

So much for panic on the streets of Amsterdam.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

A Salvo Against Cruise-Missile 'Liberals'

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and in light of 9/11 and the ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories, a number of self-identified leftists or liberals underwent a period of colonoscopic self-examination. Many emerged from the process as supporters of US, British, and, more locally, Australian imperialism. Christopher Hitchens, Nick Cohen, Pamela Bone, the Eustonites - collectively these people are known as the 'Decent Left'.

A rather indecent comrade, who happens to be arguably the best solo blogger on the intertubes, has just published a book looking at this very subject:

It's published by the excellent Verso, who also provide a good deal of other indecent stuff, such as anti-imperialist tomes, and exegeses on Lacan. Pre-order the book, comrades, and tell your Decent friends to return to their colonoscopic self-examination!

In the meantime, if you'd like a shorter rebuttal of Decentism, you could do much worse than this hilarious rejoinder.